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Publisher threatens legal action over patches

By Chris Williams. Published: 4th Nov 2004, 03:19:39 | Permalink | Printable

Oh, as if a little communication is too much effort

32bit logo motifA developer has been threatened with possible legal action, after producing a 32bit compatibility patch for a commercial piece of software.

As astronomy package NightSky is currently 26bit only, software coder Colin Ferris announced that he's decided to independently produce some patches for Iyonix users to test. APDL's Dave Holden, as publisher of NightSky, swiftly informed Colin: "If I discover that anyone has given you a pirated copy of one of our programs or that you've hacked one of our programs and been so silly as to distribute anything I will be most unhappy, but my solicitor will be smiling."

Last month, Colin updated ImageFS2 to be 32bit compatible, although this was officially announced with CJE, the ImageFS2 publisher.

"I am serious. It is illegal to 'hack' commercial software. If someone has done something like this then the person they should approach should be me. If it's worthwhile then I might well be interested in purchasing it or paying a royalty on upgrade sales," ROL shareholder Dave Holden told drobe.co.uk. We haven't been able to get through to Colin at this time.

"If they release something based on illegal hacking of our software that pre-empts something we might wish to release and thus deprives ourselves and the original author of income then they could be liable to pay us damages."

Adding that he was surprised that Colin hadn't been in touch, Dave continued: "There is absolutely no point in us investing thousands of pounds on work on our software if someone else feels they can just release free updates based on our copyright work making it impossible for us to recover our investment."

Without a doubt, the RISC OS market needs software, and we can't afford to lose any by the wayside as the market shifts to newer, modern architectures. In the case of some software, the exact details of who owns what and if the current maintainers even have the source code, let alone want to update it, remains unclear. It's therefore natural to expect a few frustrated developers to 'lend a hand' to keep some titles up to date, and in the past this has been especially true for games.

However, as particular dealers (such as CJE and APDL) begin rescuing older software, there's always the potential for some trodden toes. And to think, a little communication could prevent the eagerness of those who want to see the market continue clashing with the realities of financial survival of others.


APDL website

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Sounds like APDL is p***ed as they might lose out on potential upgrade sales.

You don't want people fixing your software for free now do ya?!

Now remind me, why did I switch to Linux?

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 4/11/04 6:10AM
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Simon: So you could run Celestia? :) [link] (a very good piece of software)

 is a RISC OS UserClades on 4/11/04 7:46AM
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simon: You obviously have little concern for the legitimate programmers who would be deprived of their rewards for the work they've done. Even where we don't ourselves own the copyright, as publishers of their work we have a duty to protect their IPR.

I agree with Chris that if the original authors or copyright holders aren't interested in doing upgrades then it's a very different situation, but in this case APDL have invested a lot of money in doing proper 32 bit versions of many of our software titles (latest, BTW, is a 32 bit version of Font Fiend) and if we can't recoup our investment there's no point in doing it. If we stop doing this sort of work I'm sure you'd be at the head of the queue moaning.

I'm quite happy to talk with Colin about any work he's done, just a bit annoyed that he didn't contact me *first*, though I assume that this was just a bit thoughtless on his part rather than deliberate. After all, I don't think anyone could say that APDL has vanished from the market, or that we aren't actively doing this sort of work ourselves.

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 4/11/04 7:48AM
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Night sky is a really great program which does not appear to run under Aemulor so a legal 32 bit upgrade would be very welcome.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 4/11/04 8:09AM
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Celestia sounds very nice, but their website is offline. :(

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 4/11/04 8:49AM
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Has anyone heard what's happened to !Sibelius7 since '98 (last update etc.)? I believe "The DataStore" is the distributing agent, or just has a selling rights? A brilliant piece of Acorn Software (more entertaining than an Acorn Game) but still only 26bit with no updates since dumped after the last '98 version. I am aware that it is working on Aemulor for the Iyonixs users, but is APDL interested or able to bring !Sibelius up to 32bit? :unhappy:

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 4/11/04 9:15AM
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sawadee: The logical people to do this are DataStore. AFAIK they only deal with upgrades and support and don't have source code, but they have a lot of experience with Sibelius and so are best qualified to do it if it was possible to get source code access.

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 4/11/04 9:38AM
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Re: !Sibelius I'm sure that I can remember in the distant past a comment or 2 about Walter di Nigro knew a bit about the proggy too. I'd certainly like to see it updated - I simply like the way it works better than the PC/Mac versions.

 is a RISC OS Userwebmonster on 4/11/04 10:24AM
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This is the sort of things that made me lose interest in RISC OS. This is indeed a case of bad communication. If software publishers want to enlarge their users base (32 bit/IYONIX), what's better of a FREE upgrade to an application?! APDL can continue to sell the 26bit + patch (if working) and make money from that. That type of move make users steering in direction of freeware. Upgrades/patches aree (mostly) free...

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 4/11/04 10:31AM
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How has this patch damaged APDL? If he was selling the patch it would be a completely different kettle of fish. All it could lose are some upgrade scales, and the fact that someone has been able to produce a free patch suggests that it's not something that should be charged for anyway.

People should be able to do whatever they want to get a piece of software running on their machine, as long as they have paid for it in the first place.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/11/04 10:55AM
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simonc: you clearly don't write or sell software for a living. Providing the patch without communicating to the pubishers first was a bad idea and could lose APDL the upgrade revenue. Yes people can do whatever they want to get it working on their own machine but that's different to providing work free of charge that harms the original author to other people.

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 4/11/04 1:20PM
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I personally think that its a shame.

but APDL is correct in doing what they are.

What are the chances of Sibelius coming back to RISC OS with a newer version (seeing as they now have the PC and MAC revinue. it would be nice to see PC version 3 on the Iyonix ;)

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 4/11/04 1:27PM
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Dansguardian: I write software for a living, but as part of a company whose type of products aren't going to be affected by this type of issue (and who modded it down? It was an on-topic opinion, even if you don't agree with it).

The point is that I don't think you should have to pay just to run something you've already got, in the same way as you shouldn't for bug fixes, but should for added functionality.

Legally I can't see how it differs at all from patches to get old software running that is no longer developed, but I doubt anyone here complains about that.

It would have been better to offer the patch to APDL, there's no argument there, but that would just have been a nicety. How do people feel about getting PC users who insist on using OE to at least use Quotefix? And that adds functionality, instead of keeping it the same but working (that assumes, of course, that anyone here would even talk to anyone using OE).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/11/04 1:35PM
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(SimonC: modded back up :))

From a users point of view, a patch to make it 32bit compatible should be free, but from the publisher, they have put time into making it 32bit, and time=money, so they should charge a small fee for it.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 4/11/04 1:41PM
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Just a couple of thoughts - firstly you can count the number of "new sales" of products like this on the finger(s) of one hand, so any income that APDL might have derived from taking it on will be in terms of upgrades. Since APDL will have invested cash to take the products on, I doubt any of us would begrudge them upgrade fees to recoup, especially if the software now runs on machines for which it wasn't designed.

The second point is that people seem to treat the Iyonix as exactly the same as RiscPC. It isn't - it runs a different operating system, has quite considerably different hardware, and requires people to spend time modifying software for use on it. When you bought your program 10+ years ago (in many cases) you did *not* pay for it to run on a completely different computer. You paid for it to work on a RiscPC, or maybe an A5000. Even ignoring the whole issue of licencing (most Iyonix users still keep their RPCs around), it is highly reasonable to expect to pay an update fee to use your program on a brand new machine. Take another example - if you were to move to a Mac/Linux machine, would you expect to have your existing RISC OS apps work out of the box? Of course not. If you wanted to use them, you'd be happy to pay for a new version. Possibly stretching things a bit, I know, but the Iyonix DOES require programmer time to modify software for operation on it.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/11/04 2:28PM
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em2ac: AFAICR, the last news from the Sibelius stables was that they've pretty much moved on to the PC and Mac market exclusively. From fairly recent telephone conversations on an unrelated matter, it seems there's basically one or two people at Sib HQ who deal with re-issuing broken Sib7 install discs.

The company as a whole seems fairly content not to bother actually making their software anything special anymore, as they're getting loads of money putting it on every secondary school Music PC in the country.

I recall their original reason for leaving the RO market was that they were looking at rewriting in C, and at the time, the Acorn C library was horrendous.

It's a real shame, as Sib7 remains intuitive, and (barring the occasional editing bug) a pleasure to use. The windows (and, I assume, Mac) version is far less user friendly.

I have yet to hear from anyone willing to take up my challenge: Me on Sib7, them on Sib for win or mac. 1 page of music, however complex you like. I'd stake quite a bit on a faster time, and a nicer end result.

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 4/11/04 2:31PM
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awransley: I see your point, even though you're speaking as a software seller yourself, but I don't completely agree with it. I don't see upgrading to an Iyonix in quite the same way as changing to a completely different platform, and the upgrades to keep it working as part of the commitment you should make when releasing a product. Nice of me to say that without being in the position of selling anything myself :-)

I suppose charging a fee is fair enough (covering distribution costs etc.), but that shouldn't stop someone else from doing it for free, but then again I take the view, which the law doesn't, that there's nothing much wrong with anyone distributing anything to change a program, for whatever reason, with a few exceptions (i.e. removing copy protection and then distributing illegal copies is not acceptable). Fundamentally I don't see it as any different to using generic parts in your car or printer, and not paying over the odds for the brand name. I understand the need for RISC OS developers to get sales, but it would be hypocritical of me to apply different standards to them than to anything else.

In this case, OK, it requires time, but someone has spent the time for no gain, so they should be applauded instead of criticised. From the point of view of it harming upgrade sales then it could be viewed in the same light as a webpage offering the same free advice that a helpline might charge for. Is that a problem?

APDL sell a CD with Elite on it, and there are a few cheat modules for that floating around. Should they all be removed too?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/11/04 3:02PM
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I can see people's points about APDL losing upgrade sales, which is pretty much the point of them buying all these ancient titles lately, but to me, if the author of this patch wasn't charging for it, then it wasn't that much work, so it would be a bit of a cheek to charge for it.

I remember with the RO4 upgrades, you at least got some new features and other bug fixes included. Just making it work on the new OS is more of a free bug fix to me, than a chargeable upgrade.

And have APDL already spent money of doing this 32-bitting themselves?

And whoever said Sibelius was better on RISC OS must have been smoking crack. A friend of mine who is heavily into music scoring (and big Acorn advocate) actually ditched Sib7 and Acorn when he saw the far superior PC version.

Oh and I write software for a living too ;)

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 4/11/04 5:25PM
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arawnsley: However, the Mac world has two counter examples: Both the move from 68k to PPC and the move from MacOS 9 to X included software to allow continued use of old versions of software for free, and when new versions came along that ran natively, you got bags of new features too, which were then charged for.

Something makes me think that if something like Aemulor was packaged with the Iyonix, its uptake would have been somewhat quicker.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 4/11/04 5:57PM
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You make a sound point nun - and I agree that bundling Aemulor with Iyonix would have helped its uptake bigtime, especially early on. From other comments, it seems nightsky didn't work with aemulor, as I guess some mac software didn't work on the bundled emulators. Personally I have always felt that users have a choice of Aemulor-ing old software or paying for a nice shiny new 32bit version. Again note that I'm ignoring the issue of "am I licenced to use this software on another machine", but that *is* something users should be aware of.

Note to SimonC - erm no. When I release a piece of software for RiscPC, it is sold on that basis. I feel no obligation to make it work on fundamentally different architecture free of charge. Remember in many cases people bought the software originally 5-10 years back. In the case of Nightsky, that was even a completely different company!!!! I think it is somewhat unreasonable to expect FOC service after that length of time.

Put another way - if you took your car back to the garage you bought if from after 5-10 years, would you expect free upgrades, parts and labour?

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/11/04 6:16PM
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awransley: The big difference between cars and software is that parts of cars physically wear out, so there is a material cost in replacing them.

That was slightly straying from the point that it looks like I completely failed to make, though. In balance, I've decided I can accept some payment for an identically featured new version. I don't think that should stop someone else for doing it for free. Returning to the car example, if someone offered to repair it for nothing, using their own parts, then the car manufacture shouldn't (and can't) be able to stop them from doing so.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/11/04 6:24PM
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arawnsley: That's twice now that I've failed to spell your name wrong. Sorry!

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/11/04 6:26PM
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jymbob I understood in the later '90s that Sibelius were not intending further work on the RISC OS side of their programme. It would be nice if someone (DataStore?) could update !Sibelius7 with similar Sib3 for PC features and 32bit.

simo RISC OS & PC Sibelius both have features quite unique to each platform as I understand from us users & ex-Sibelius distributors in the Souther Hemiphere. PC versions have heaps of plugins and new features (as expected), but the RISC OS version is far superior by means of RO desktop benefits, simplicity to use and teach in schools. The PC version is nowhere near as easy to use but is feature packed with many of add ons to use (which is useful if you have the time).

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 4/11/04 9:55PM
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SimonC - fair point, provided the car part company doesn't use any tech that is property of the original company. That's the problem here for nightsky i guess - the executable code, and the "ideas" (IPR) in it, are deemed to be (c) the original author/publisher, and it is why commercial software usually comes with a no-reverse-engineering clause. Incidentally the elite cheatmods don't alter/distribute original code, they only poke values into memory.

Anyway, probably time for me to go back to lurking ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/11/04 10:14PM
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It's not illegal to reverse engineer commercial software as far as I know, however it is often a breack of end user licence terms to reverse engineer said software, EULA's being built ontop of copyright and I believe civil law and not criminal law.

Ignoreing all of that, stupid move really, in such a tiny well-informed market it can only be bad publicity, I'm sure it'll have a few less people interested in buying any future producs of theres for this platform and mabie others.

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 4/11/04 11:33PM
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Sawadee: It would definitely be nice if they did, but also near-mythically unlikely. IIRC, Sib7 was written in pure assembler (the reason they switched platform was wishing to rewrite in C++ to make it easier to maintain, I guess). Would you like to take on the task of working out someone else's highly tweaked assembler code (I would doubt they even have the source if they're just a distributor) and then add features that they decided to switch to C++ to add? Martin Wuerthner did an amazing job with Artworks, but I'm afraid I can't see that being repeated with Sib, particularly when there's one available for Windows (the reason I got the combo Windows/VRPC-Adjust laptop I'm typing this on), and one that is far superior in my humble opinion...

 is a RISC OS Userhutchies on 4/11/04 11:49PM
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I guessed reworking Sibelius7 would never be a simple task, and not just to rewrite it in C++ but to test and make it work with the quality as good as a Sibelian user would expect, would be a mammoth challenge in it's own right. It was just my thought that of all the RISC OS software that has and is going 32bit, Sibelius7 still is not? Yes, it's a big job "IF" anyone takes it on, and yes, Sibelius may not be seen as a priority if it is available on PC's. I do understand the consideration and points being made, but I admire what I have seen of Artworks in RISC OS, now that has not stopped in development simply because the PC world has similar programmes. Maybe I can not accept seeing RISC OS lose out each time we ackknowledge the Acorn inherited way of thinking "we will never always have". I wonder if Martin W. would be interested in free music lessons? ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 5/11/04 6:47AM
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Re Sib7: not a chance of a new or improved version for the Acorn. As an Acorn fan it saddens me to say, but Sibelius Software would be wasting their time. How much would it cost to port natively to RISC OS 5, to add all the new features (or indeed to port Sib3 to RISC OS)? And for how many sales?

You will also discover, if you investigate, that Sibelius Software is very protective of it's source code.

If you want the new features, you have no choice. You need to be using the PC or Mac version.

Sib7 has a slightly better layout engine than earlier PC versions, but the chaps at Sibelius inform me that Sibelius3 matches this quality. They then proceed to challenge me to download the Sib3 demo and compare.

Sib3 runs in screen modes that provide flicker-free displays, has hoards of new features and is actively developed and supported.

I admit, Sib7 is nicer to use and I regret selling it, but then, it's basically dead.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 5/11/04 11:17AM
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Consider this alternative approach. Dear X I understand that you are interested in releasing patches for program 'Y' to enable it to run on the Iyonix computer.

As publisher and copywrite holder of 'Y' I am very interested in upgrading this software title to run on the latest versions of RISC OS running on the newest hardware achitectures. Thus I am pleased to hear that there is still enthusiasm for product 'Y' within the RISC OS community.

Could you please contact me within two weeks of the date of this communication with a view to arranging an official release of the 32bit clean version of 'Y' so as to avoid any potential infringements of copywrite.

Many thanks, Mr Publisher

Upgrading officially As regards paying upgrade fees I don't think that there are many who would disagree that an upgrade fee is reasonable for conversion to allow a product to run on RO5.

If a user has paid monies to make sure that the product will run (properly) on their new machine then they expect it to work in exactly the same way as the older version of the software. I have had at least one experience where this (still) appears to not have been the case.

If software houses had reacted more positively and clearly about the Iyonix when it came out users would not have had to start thinking about hacking programs to get them to work.

It would also have made it clear that those software houses were committed to the whole RISC OS desktop market instead of only one part of it.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 7/11/04 8:58AM
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I think it is perfectly reasonable to pay for upgrade fees for software.

I now use windows because the riscos software is not up to what I require, however, I pay for software and write my own PC and MAC software where it cannot be found. If this prevented me from staying with RISC OS then withdrawal of other software may drive others away. Hope this gets sorted for old times sake. All the best Bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 13/11/04 10:16AM
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In reply to Clades. Thanks for that link to Celestia. It is a truly brilliant piece of software. I've shown it to students at work and they are gobsmacked that a) it's easy to use and b) it's free.

If any of you've not seen it, find a friend or anyone that can run it and prepare to be amazed. All IMHO, of course.

 is a RISC OS UserZaphod on 14/11/04 11:48AM
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